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Col. Glen Apgar, the 86th Air Wing vice commander, and wife Janis check out the new monument presented to the base by German officials during a ceremony Thursday dubbing Ramstein the new “Gateway to Europe.” Rhein-Main Air Base, located near Frankfurt, was originally considered the U.S. Air Force's “Gateway to Europe” for decades until it officially closed in December 2005.

Col. Glen Apgar, the 86th Air Wing vice commander, and wife Janis check out the new monument presented to the base by German officials during a ceremony Thursday dubbing Ramstein the new “Gateway to Europe.” Rhein-Main Air Base, located near Frankfurt, was originally considered the U.S. Air Force's “Gateway to Europe” for decades until it officially closed in December 2005. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Col. Glen Apgar, the 86th Air Wing vice commander, and wife Janis check out the new monument presented to the base by German officials during a ceremony Thursday dubbing Ramstein the new “Gateway to Europe.” Rhein-Main Air Base, located near Frankfurt, was originally considered the U.S. Air Force's “Gateway to Europe” for decades until it officially closed in December 2005.

Col. Glen Apgar, the 86th Air Wing vice commander, and wife Janis check out the new monument presented to the base by German officials during a ceremony Thursday dubbing Ramstein the new “Gateway to Europe.” Rhein-Main Air Base, located near Frankfurt, was originally considered the U.S. Air Force's “Gateway to Europe” for decades until it officially closed in December 2005. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Gen. Tom Hobbins, commander of U. S. Air Forces in Europe, accompanied by Karl Bruch, deputy minister president of Rheinland-Pfalz, right, walk past the recently unveiled monument.

Gen. Tom Hobbins, commander of U. S. Air Forces in Europe, accompanied by Karl Bruch, deputy minister president of Rheinland-Pfalz, right, walk past the recently unveiled monument. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Ramstein Air Base officially became the “Gateway to Europe” in a ceremony Thursday, belatedly marking the move of American airlift operations from Rhein-Main Air Base.

Rhineland-Palatinate state leaders and American military officials dedicated a monument in a plaza near the base’s air terminal to recognize the shift.

The U.S. government handed over Rhein-Main Air Base to Frankfurt International Airport on Oct. 10, 2005, after transferring operations to Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases. The base officially closed on Dec. 31, 2005.

“Let us keep this Gateway open as far as possible in both directions,” Rhineland-Palatinate Deputy Minister President Karl Peter Bruch said. “May it always stay open connecting our continents and our people, may it always be a gate to freedom and a gate to peace.”

German state leaders approached U.S. military officials about marking the move as a way to highlight its significance and the partnership between the two countries.

“This symbolic act offers an opportunity to reflect on many things and to demonstrate to our U.S. partners that they are greatly valued in the Rhineland-Palatinate,” state Minister of Finance Ingolf Deubel said.

The Kaiserslautern area is the largest American military community outside of the continental U.S., with nearly 54,000 Americans.

Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases are among the largest employers in the area, and Bruch said the installations inject nearly $1.6 billion into the state economy.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany William R. Timken Jr., Gen. Tom Hobbins, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and retired Gen. John Jumper, former USAFE commander, along with local German civic leaders attended the event.


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